National Chair

Dec 2010 | 08.12.2010

How our Union will move forward

colinaddress.jpg

I have been the National Chairman for eight years and believe we are entering the most challenging and difficult times of the POA’s history.

“I wish to place on record my thanks to the professional men and women of the Service who dealt with the serious incidents at Warren Hill and Moorland.”

I thought I would start this article by reflecting on some of the key issues which have affected the Union and look at how the Union moves forward into 2011 and beyond.

The Union is engaged with the TUC and Public Services Liaison Group as we campaign against the cuts to public services as a result of the Comprehensive Spending Review, but the membership needs to engage in these campaigns if we are to change the public’s opinion of prisons. The work continues in preparation of our case to Europe and the International Labour Organisation in respect of our trade union rights. This is vital to the Union if we are to protect the terms and conditions of the membership. Clearly, the dictate from Government in respect of pay for 2011 reaffirms the need of the Union to have the ability to engage in collective bargaining. We are continuing to progress the case against privatisation. The Union has engaged Mr Stephen Nathan, a world-renowned author and journalist on the shortcomings of privatisation of prisons; hopefully, the Union will be in a position to launch the strategy and campaign early in the New Year. The announcement on the results of the Market Tests is due very shortly and the NEC will determine how to deal with this before the end of this year, but we continue to press Government to abandon this ill-conceived and unnecessary process. The Hutton Review into pensions is well under way and the recommendations and outcomes from Treasury will need to be assessed as our ability to keep pace with the cost of living is aff ected. This country and the world have had to come to terms with a global recession and the country’s debt is forcing this Government to take a hard line on public spending. This will impact on every public servant, irrespective of rank or status. Therefore all public sector unions and workers must stand together as one supporting each other otherwise we will all suffer in the long term. The POA, as a full member of the TUC, is engaging with our fellow unions in the public sector, let no one doubt that we are at the forefront of putting forward our views on how to protect our valued public sectors. At present, we are engaged in discussions with NOMS on a number of issues, JES, the Way Forward, a National Disputes Agreement so that the POA is in a position to deal with and challenge the imposed budget cuts to each prison as the £2billion reduction to the Ministry of Justice budget is managed over the next four years. The POA as a responsible Trade Union will always attempt to negotiate and discuss change with the Government and NOMS. The MoJ is looking at a number of other areas as part of its savings plan; sentencing, court closures, prison closures, a reduction to the prison population, and use of the private and voluntary sectors. The POA needs to be ready to deal with all these proposals should they become reality and impact on POA members. This brief outline of the challenges we face, leads me to the next area I wish to raise, that being: Does prison work?

Does prison work?

I have read many articles in the press, some in support of prisons others in opposition, but the recent events in our prisons demonstrate the risks people working in prisons face every day. In my last article I advised Government that there was no rewind button if budget cuts continued to take effect. I wish to place on record my thanks to the professional men and women of the Service who dealt with the serious incidents at Warren Hill and Moorland. I was disgusted to read some of the comments from senior officials and heads of other organisations which have been covered quite adequately by writers in this issue of Gatelodge. However, I will be raising those issues at the very highest level of Government to ensure people realise the risks POA members on the frontline run at work. I have no doubt that prison works; in fact I would go further and say, without prisons, society would be a far more dangerous place to live in. Who comes into prison and for how long has not been a concern of the POA in the past. We now need to consider how we can influence politicians on sentencing reforms and use of custodial sentences to ensure the public has confidence in the prison system. The Prime Minister is on record as saying that we must have a safer society; one way of safeguarding that society is for our prisons to hold those that are a danger to the public in a secure environment. That can not be attained on the cheap.

Pay Submission 2011

The submission to the Prison Service Pay Review Body (PRB) has been submitted and despite the terms of the activation letter and dictate from Government we are seeking fair and just increases to pay and allowances for all employees within the remit group. This year will undoubtedly test and demonstrate the true independence of the PRB.

General issues

I visited a number of prisons in recent weeks and it was clear that pensions and prison closures were of concern to members and these issues are in hand at present. The announcement from Davy Melrose at the Scottish Conference that he intends to stand down at the end of this term of office, as Chairman of the Scottish National Committee was a sad day for this Union and the membership as a whole. I would like to use the pages of Gatelodge to thank Davy for his dedication to the members and wish him well for the future when his term of office ends. Finally, I would like to wish all the members, support staff, providers, NEC and Assistant Secretaries a happy Christmas and prosperous New Year.

All the very best and thank you.

 

 

Colin Moses
National Chairman